We do. We do love spinning and the wheels and looms never stop. The colours encourage and inspire us and we just love that rhythm of the wheels. We like to make wool batts and spin those but we like the colourways of tops and then we have been interested in experimenting with different fibres. Mostly it is merino and alpaca in our group but we’ll try dog hair, camel, cotton , plant fibres and rare breeds. We do it to see and then we do it because each fibre feels different. The colours can be outrageously bold or very soft and subtle. Sometimes it is just natural fleece colours and other times we like to play with natural and chemical dyes to see what happens. Our wheels are all different too. Some members are more than happy with their electric wheels and others like to play with their manual wheels. Electric wheels are obviously more transportable because of the size. The latest passion for some of the members, thanks to Christine, are the little 3D printed Eel Wheels. You need to be patient setting them up but they really are a bonus for quick and easy small scale spinning.
Last week when we went to join the Victor Harbour Spinning group we were given a talk about rare breeds of sheep and how important it was to keep the gene pool strong. We have lost a large number of sheep breeds world wide because some sheep just don’t make money and climate change is making areas unviable for sheep farming. The North Ronaldsay seaweed eating sheep are under threat because of climate change and they are trying to breed them to be grass eating to help their survival but then they won’t be the North Rondaldsay sheep as such. The Manx Loagham sheep date back to the bronze age but no longer have the variety of fleece colours since some colours are not popular. The Rare Breeds Trust keep a current list relevant to Australia. We need to keep the gene pool strong so we can keep our sheep healthy. They are social animals and were probably the first domesticated animals we humans had.
On the other end of the scale Christine was telling us today about spider goats. Professor Randy Lewis, a molecular biologist ,worked out how to get the spider drag line silk gene into goats’ milk so we could have better access to industrial strength silk! The video above tells you about it and you can read more on Business Insider.
As a spinner you can help sheep stay viable by selecting their fleece for spinning. It is also a chance to experiment with new and different fibres being produced so that you build the next bank of knowledge for current fibres on the planet. It then comes down to whether you support the breeds associated with your country or you help support breeds world wide. The talk made us really think about these sorts of issues and how we can play our part to ensuring fleece providing animals continue to be a part of our world but also how we can be alert to the fibre changes which are coming about because we live in the age of technology.
When you come to the spinning group on Monday, you cannot fail to be affected by the beautiful view of the ocean outside and then all the lovely colours inside. Some of the colours are just extraordinary. You then add to that the tactile feel of fleece and fibre. It’s quite a sensory experience which feeds the imagination. We are just going to leave these pictures here so you can look and react and get your own ideas about what you’d change or improve or how you’d love to use these colours.
Possum fur yarn comes from New Zealand. In Australia the brush tail possum is a protected species. They have lived in New Zealand since the 1800s and have settled so well they become too prolific at times. New Zealand has created a Perino wool which has some very good properties for very cold, damp climates . It’s a mix of possum fur and merino wool.
Margaret was knitting with a yarn which was a mix of possum and alpaca. It was an unusual colour. It had a hardly noticeable brown undertone from the possum fur but the brown was softening the pink colour which was very pretty. It was fine wool and her kitting felt so soft. It would be good for those people who find wool scratchy to wear and certainly the possum/alpaca mix is a good competitor for cashmere!